Relative age effects: exploring possible solutions and the relationships between relative age, sport participation, education, and indicators of positive youth development
Webdale (Ottenbrite), Kelly
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Relative age occurs when youth are placed into age groups in sport and education. Relative Age Effects (RAE) indicate that being born closer to the cutoff date holds an advantage in sport and academic outcomes. Study 1 explores what effects relative age has on educational achievement, participation in school and extracurricular sport and physical education, and positive youth development (PYD). Methods. A secondary analysis of Ontario secondary school students (N= 22,915) age 13 to 18 from the COMPASS study was carried out. The influence of relative age on academic achievement, sport and physical activity participation, and feelings of connectedness were considered. Results. Statistically significant relationships were found between relative age and academic achievement in math and English, relative age and sport participation, and relative age and feelings of connectedness. Feelings of connectedness were related to sport participation as well as higher academic achievement, for all quartiles. Study 2, a systematic review of the relative age literature between January 1980 and May 2016, aimed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of various proposed solutions to relative age effects (RAEs) in youth sport. Results. Forty-one peer-reviewed publications and three articles from online sources met the criteria for inclusion. Most solutions were theoretical and the majority of solutions proposed attempt to address environmental constraints (rather than task or individual) and seek to change sport systems or alter cut-off dates. Many of the solutions proposed would also be difficult to implement. Conclusions: Future research should seek to investigate the effects of relative age on youth sport and educational outcomes, especially as related to connectedness and PYD, and the consideration of other multi-dimensional aspects of youths’ developmental ecology. Future research should also seek to test possible proposed solutions to RAEs in sport.